Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Ain't No Sweet Man (Worth the Salt of My Tears)

There are at least two recordings of “Ain’t No Sweet Man (Worth the Salt of My Tears)” by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra that I am aware of. The one I first fell in love with is on disc 1 of the Ken Burns Jazz Box Set. It was recorded on Feb. 28, 1928, and featured Bix Beiderbecke on coronet. Bix was one of the first great white jazz musicians. He was inspired by Louis Armstrong, but rather than imitating him he developed his own style of playing that would influence the next generation of jazz players. Unfortunately, Bix would die at an early age due to alcoholism.
The Paul Whiteman Orchestra was one of the most popular “jazz” groups in the 1920s and ‘30s and included some of the greatest early jazz pioneers including Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti, Jack Teagarden, Jimmie Dorsey and many others. Several can be heard on this recording along with Bix. Frankie Trumbauer plays the C-Melody Saxophone; Jimmie Dorsey (Tommy Dorsey’s brother) plays the alto sax; and Paul Whiteman himself plays the violin.
This is a full orchestra number with two trumpets (in addition to Bix’s coronet), three trombones, five clarinets, three alto sax, a tenor sax, C-Melody sax, baritone sax, six violins, a piano, a banjo, a bass, a tuba, drums and a vocal group.
It was the vocal number in the middle of the song (they come in about 1:20 into the piece) that most struck me when I first heard it. I knew that voice! When I looked at the lineup it became obvious - The Ryhthm Boys - featuring Bing Crosby - but still I was surprised. I had always associated Bing Crosby with popular music of the ‘40s (and Christmas music) so I was taken aback to hear him stand out in this early jazz tune.
Thus began my ongoing infatuation with The Crooner of which I will write more about later.
You can tell that they had fun with this number. They didn’t bother to change the lyrics, which were written from the woman’s point of view, and Crosby has a way of trilling certain words and putting emphasis in just the right spots. He solos for most of the song with the other Ryhthm Boys (Harry Barris and Al Rinker) joining in for the scatting at the end of each verse - plus Barris’ trademark ‘tah!’ imitating the sound of a cymbal strike.

Here are the lyrics:

Shakin' like a leaf on a tree,
That's coming loose from the stem;
Shakin' like a leaf on a tree,
Because I'm coming loose from my man!

I'm like a weeping willow,
Weeping on my pillow,
For years and years,
There ain't no sweet man that's worth the salt of my
Ba-ba-da-doo, wah da da da do, wah da da ba do, wha da-oh!

Down and down he dragged me,
Like a fiend he nagged me,
For years and years,
There ain't no sweet man that's worth the salt of my
Ba da da da da da do!

Although I may be blue,
Still, I'm true,
I must tell him good-bye!
Rather than have that man,
Gonna lay me down and just die!

Broken-hearted sisters,
Aggravating misters, lend me your ears!
There ain't no sweet man that's worth the salt of my
Ba-ba-da-doo, wah da da da do, wah da da ba do, wha da-oh!
Ba-da wah da-oh! Shh!

The other version of this song can be found on Bix n Bing which is a wonderful compilation of early jazz tunes in which Bix and Bing are both featured. They were best of friends at the time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, a "coronet" is a small crown, like a tiara. Bix played a "cornet".

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